Simmel defines society as “merely the name for a number of individuals connected by interaction…It is not a ‘substance,’ nothing concrete, but an event: It is the function of receiving and affecting the fate and development of one individual by another”. In class today we learned that we are all apart of different groups each with different forms of interaction. Some of these groups may be family, friends, work, and religious communities. Everyone acts a different way in each different group that is appropriate for that setting. For example the way we act with our friends may not be the same way we interact with our family or coworkers.
Simmel defines sociability as the “play form of association”, driven by “amicability, breeding, cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds”. As human beings, it is natural to want to socialize with others, even if there is no cause or purpose. Some ways people find themselves in sociable conversations is by starting a conversation on the train with the person sitting across from them. There is no purpose, its just a friendly gesture and it makes the time pass quicker. There is no motive to these social interactions, its just something that happens naturally. People are social beings so this leads to a feeling of satisfaction for many. However, sociability is somewhat artificial, because there is no room for deep conversation. When someone asks, “how are you”, we are socialized to answer with “good”. No one would start listing their problems right away without getting into a much deeper form of conversation and connection.
After watching “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor”. It was shocking to see the reality of our income inequality. I would of liked to have seen more people realize the issue than a bunch of seemingly oblivious drones. Being that I work in the Financial industry it’s easy to see how the rich seem to get richer and those not at the level are stuck struggling just to scrape by.
I especially enjoyed watching “Wealth Inequality in America” since it broke it down in several graphs and images which make it simple to see how skewed income inequality actually is in the U.S. The chart of the U.S. income breakdown is a clear example of Marx’s idea that capitalism causes inequality. Also, since Sweden’s “chart” was among the favorite as an ideal breakdown of income, maybe we should be taking notes as to how they run their society. All in all, it is clear that the U.S. has a major income inequality problem that seems to only be worsening. Hopefully some change is able to occur to relieve the issue.
Durkheim says “we must contract our horizon, choose a definite task and immerse ourselves in it completely, instead of trying to make ourselves a sort of creative masterpiece, quite complete, which contains worth in itself and not in the services it renders.” What I gather from the statement is whatever job one chooses to perform to earn a living determines their worth to society. Everything we do in society helps to keep it running and productive. People seem to take on a view that everything should be equally split, but not every task is simple and not every task is complex. If you want a high position in society choose a task to learn that will give you that position and earn you that pay you feel you deserve it. The growth of society is bigger than the self, so you should focus on bringing the best to society. He doesn’t seem to focus on the individual self as I feel others do when it comes to a capitalist society. Even those in the lower classes are guilty of selfishness to an extent in my opinion, because it is a given lower classes don’t get paid nearly enough, whose to say if the roles were reversed they would not act in the same manner of those in the higher class? Everyone is biased of their own talents and worth as they should be, but how does this serve the greater good of a society?
Today’s lecture had me thinking all afternoon. I found it really interesting that Durkheim had such strong theories related to suicide. I have to say that I both agree and disagree with his ideas. Being that I am a psychology major, I think I have a strong bias against theories that argue a certain phenomena is not really a result of one’s mental health. However, after conceptualizing Durkheim’s theory I understand his sociological analysis of suicide, but I do not think that he was necessarily correct in almost shunning psychological aspects of suicide. Further, I had some thoughts regarding Durkheim’s interpretation of the anomie theory in relation to suicide.
Suicide is a very interpersonal action. I think that those who attempt or go through with suicide have an internal conflict which can be influenced by events or occurrences in society. I disagree in that social events can directly lead one to commit suicide. I believe there has to be underlying issues or conflicts that an individual deals with that contributes to their decision to attempt suicide. As Professor Hala mentioned in class, the economic crisis was almost the tip of the ice berg for many men’s emotional states which, in turn, increased the likelihood they would go through with suicide. Perhaps these men already felt a sense of pressure, depression or concern about making ends meet in order to support themselves or their families; then following the downfall of our economy, they may have felt completely defeated and that there was no other way out. Shifting gears and thinking about suicide internationally or cross culturally, I think that social facts and the way in which individuals relate to their society or culture play a role in suicide statistics. However, I do still contest to my belief that there is a psychological factor that plays a role in a carried out suicide attempts.
Robert Merton (1940) expanded on Durkheim’s theory of anomie by discussing five adaptations of strain. Durkheim’s theory of anomie discusses the break down of cultural norms due to rapid change. This is related back to suicide in that individuals are more likely to commit suicide in times of rapid or sudden economic decrease or prosperity. Merton proposed five modes or adaptations to strain that members of society fell into if they could not achieve goals, if you will. Conformity, innovation, rebellion, ritualism and retreatism are the modes of adaptation (I have provided a link below which describes each mode of adaptation in detail). Typically these modes of adaptation are used to understand deviance among societies, but sociologically thinking, I would consider suicide to be an act of deviance, because it essentially goes against social norms. While reading about Durkheim’s theories on suicide, I was surprised not to see any mention of Merton’s expansion as I believe they would support Durkheim’s ideology and supported his idea that social factors influence suicide.
Durkheim provides a very thought-provoking take on suicide. I would have never thought of suicide on a macro level in the way he did. I believe that suicide is very individualistic BUT individuals are easily influenced by social events which can reinforce their suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
The fact that Americans believed that the wealth in America was closer to an idealistic distribution of wealth can be due to an education of false “freedom”. It is known that that theindustrial bourgeois in the industrial revolution surpassed other regimes of power, and with their surpassing they had a chance to use education for their benefits. They needed a way for the capitalistic machine to keep going and they knew that if they made education for the middle classa collective emphasis of false freedom and mobility, then the middle class could become somewhat blinded to any false value in terms of exchange value and unfortunate commodity. TheAmericans in both videos believed that wealth distribution in America was somewhat fair. The political sway of the industrial bourgeois today has allowed Government intervention, which is in close connection to education, to be of benefit for CEOs and investors. American has allowed this education of false freedom to be ingrained in the minds of Americans leading them to believe in the American dream. The wealth distribution was too said to have changed after some twenty to thirty years in the “Wealth Inequality in America” YouTube video because for some time the American people could have lived this dream. Since government intervention has recently been more lenient to the wants and definitions of exchange value of the one percent, the wealth distribution has seemingly changed overnight to something far from believed or idealistic, or even worse than some unequal African or Asian countries. There was a high lack of class consciousness probably fault to the American dream being opportune for so long in the past and the gilded survival of the middle class. This was expressed when those of the lower classes knew the right Wealth distraction in American and the wealthier Americans believed in the falsewealth distribution in America, in ” Land of the Free, Home of the poor.” The worst issues in terms of wealth distribution had not actualized because of such foolish thinking; hence class consciousness has not actualized. The seemingly well to do black women who went two towns away for food supply was thought of as unfit in the PBS special. The political sway of land of the free is far too ingrained in the head of the Americans; hence I was not surprised by their false thinking. Marx differed from Hegel in that is was material existence that allowed historical conscious change, yet when Americans are still living if whatever wealth is salvaged along with a false American dream, this type of conscious of class and poverty cannot be actualized. Unfortunately those who are hurt and are living in it such as the black women and the two low income workers can effectively be conscious in terms of wealth distribution. “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” (From The German Ideology, Karl Marx and Friedrich Hegel) The Americans in these videos are only conscious products of their educational properties, and it is until they fall in the poorer pie slice of wealth distribution will they historically be conscious of their poorer existence. What did not surprise me but annoyed me was how Americans lost the critical thinking to rationalize their existence in terms of wealth distribution. Was it that collective and dominant teachings concerning “freedom” were all too brainwashing? The condition of alienation has not touched lucky Americans and those that are too ingrained with this “free” form of thinking, hence a woman in the PBS special said that she rather live in the most unequal pie chart, probably thinking that the chart expressed “free” trade. This free trade expresses some consciousness as if the Americans in these videos have some false sense of human consciousness, it could be unfortunate, but maybe as soon as they are treated like animals in the industrial expansion, maybe they will regain the real consciousness ofwhere they stand in terms of wealth. These Americans seem to be bombarded with too much “free” propaganda. The fact that so much are unemployed should by Marx’s words, prove that there will be some historical change coming soon, yet most rather believe in foolish dreams. With the power invested in the one percent, it is not too hard to use advertisements to appeal to the middle class, in a time when our economy is falling; you might see more advertisements expressing what money can do as if money has some magician powers to remove any feeling of unequal wealth distribution. It is unfortunate to think that government is redefining the definitionof what exchange value might be in our already failing economy. Maybe many Americans think that if certain commodities with “decent” values are still available, well maybe there is no unequal wealth distribution at all.
It was astounding to see the historian blame the London riots on the “black culture”. That goes to show that anything deviant that does not pertain to the roles mandated by the authorities and high class, ‘white’ society will be blame on the minorities of color. Now that I see why the riots occurred, it is baffling that it is even suggested riots being a consequence of ‘black/urban culture’. They are social issues, not racial ones. This is not limited to London, here in the United States it is extremely visible with how crime is portrayed in the media. White killers are always attached to some mental illness or temporary outrage, while any other race is immediately thought of as “evil” or “influenced by their culture” (poverty, stereotypical ‘urban culture’- for lack of a better term). In the Dominican Republic, Haitians born in the country are not granted citizenship- due to their darker skin tone (there’s a history of discrimination in the country because of racism), human rights organizations are outraged. The treatment of race in the media and the government only adds to the racial profiling of people in all aspects of society.
(In this tweet by comedian Katt Williams, he clearly differentiates between the handling of crimes in America according to one’s race/ethnicity- stereotypes are powerful if given constant attention).